‘True belief’ vs. knowledge

It is interesting to compare the different accounts of ‘belief’ and ‘knowledge’ as coming from two traditions that are wide apart, as India and ancient Greece are; though it is known that there was a contact between the two at the time of Alexander the Great (cf. ‘The Questions of king Milinda’ – a debate between a Buddhist (Nagasena) and a Greek savant, namely, the king himself, Menander/Milinda).

‘True belief’ does sound rather awkward (and so it did to Plato’s – or Socrates’ – ears), or unusual, but, in my opinion, is close to shradda and shabda.

How deep is the difference between the two accounts?


 (Shabda. One of the meanings of that term is ‘scriptural authority’.)

“According to Vedanta, implicit belief or faith (shradda) is the acceptance of, or the reliance on, the words of the trustworthy, which need no verification. It is other than credulity or gullibility. It is conviction of truth and tantamount to valid knowledge… Shabda as a source of valid knowledge means agama, authentic word that is free from all defects. It is a canon of knowledge recognized by most Indian systems of thought that the words of such persons as are free from delusion, error, deceit, and defects of the senses and the mind are a source of valid cognition. Thus, reason is implicit in faith. It is not unreasonable to rely on the reliable.” ‘Methods of Knowledge – According to Vedanta’, Swami Satprakashananda.


SOCRATES: If the direction to add an ‘account’ [logos, a reason or explanation – tarka] means that we are to get to know the differentness, as opposed to merely having a notion of it, this most admirable of all definitions of knowledge will be a pretty business, because ‘getting to know’ means acquiring knowledge, doesn’t it?


SOCRATES: So, apparently, to the question, ‘What is knowledge’? our definition will reply, ‘Correct belief’ together with knowledge of a differentness’, for, according to it, ‘adding an account’ will come to that.

THAETETUS: So it seems.

SOCRATES: Yes, and when we are inquiring after the nature of knowledge, nothing could be sillier than to say that it is correct belief together with a knowledge of differentness o of anything whatever.

So, Thaetetus, neither perception, nor true belief, nor the addition of an ‘account’ to true belief can be knowledge.

THAETETUS: Apparently so.

(From the dialogue ‘Thaetetus’ – PLATO, The Collected Dialogues, Ed. Edith Hamilton and Huntington Cairns)